Trains are one of the fastest and most convenient ways to get around Europe. Frequent high-speed trains connect all of the major European cities.
If you’re planning a trip to Europe, it can be tempting to purchase a Eurail Pass. These passes cover unlimited train travel within certain European countries for a fixed amount of time. They offer a degree of flexibility and an illusion of saving money. But are they really the great deal they’re cracked up to be?
Most members agree that while they can offer savings, Eurail passes often work out more expensive than buying point-to-point tickets. In addition, they may not be as flexible as they appear to be. Most high-speed trains require a reservation. If a train happens to be full at the time of making the reservation, it won’t be possible to get a seat. Further, some services (e.g. overnight trains) require an additional supplement to be paid.
I have personally found that the Eurail passes are not worth the money. They aren’t that cheap, and often you need to make a reservation and sometimes pay a supplement for certain services anyway. Have you checked the price of booking each of the train legs separately, compared to buying a Eurail pass?
Eurail passes are available for two classes of travel – First and Second class. But if you’re an Australian over the age of 26, you’ll only be eligible to purchase the more expensive First class pass.
The key is to do your research. Depending on where you’ll be travelling, it may indeed work out cheaper to purchase a Eurail Pass. But you should always compare the cost of the Pass with the prices of individual train tickets. You may find that buying separate tickets is actually cheaper.
I’ll echo that you need to be careful in comparing the pricing. I normally start with Bahn.com to search routes and get prices.
I you do decide against buying a Eurail Pass, there are a number of other ways to save money on European train travel. Purchasing tickets in advance can be a good way to take advantage of lower prices, including advance purchase deals. Additionally, some countries offer discounts to customers that have purchased a discount card. In Germany, for example, holders of a “Bahn Card” can save up to 50% on all train fares. There is even a trial Bahn Card that comes with 25% off all train tickets in Germany. The card costs just €19, meaning it often pays for itself after just one or two journeys.
Did Switzerland and Germany last year and instead bought the Swiss 50% card (about Eur100 for a month) and booked a lot of the online specials that come on 2wks out, and the Probe 25% card in Germany (obviously I cancelled it before it converted to an annual). It was substantially cheaper versus an equivalent Eurail for what I did.
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